Chrome plating and its health and safety requirements

Chrome plating is a popular procedure whereby a thin chromium layer is applied to the surface of another metal or alloy, also called a substrate. This overall process is called electroplating. There are various important health and safety requirements when conducting the electroplating process and this article will explore these requirements.

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The process of electroplating

The process of electroplating requires that an electric current is passed between two electrodes. The electrodes are immersed in an electrolyte ‘bath’ which contains chromic acid. One of the electrodes is the metal or alloy which needs to be plated with the chromium layer. While the electricity passed between the electrodes, the chromium atoms are deposited.

There are two main chromium process types: hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium. Both types have potential dangers and their use and disposal should be closely controlled and monitored.

Potential dangers of electroplating

The process of electroplating can be dangerous because certain chemicals are used which can be carcinogenic to humans. For this reason, the chemicals used are strictly controlled. There are guidance notes on the use of the chemicals used that have been created by the Surface Engineering Association in conjunction with the HSE to ensure proper usage and awareness of any risks.

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The two chromium types used for plating, hexavalent and trivalent chromium, are both carcinogenic. For this reason, the disposal of waste materials from hexavalent chromium plating process needs to be treated before disposal. The trivalent chromium is less toxic, but it still needs to be closely controlled during usage and disposal.

When companies such as and other UK surface engineering specialists use chromium plating, they have a number of health and safety procedures they must follow.

Health and Safety considerations

Strict procedures must be followed when companies use chromium plating processes and all usages should be monitored. The government has released various health and safety documents to help companies with the correct use of chromium relating to incident management and toxicology overview.

By knowing the procedures involved with electroplating, the potential dangers of chromium plating and the guidelines surrounding its usage and disposal, companies can use the electroplating procedure safely and responsibly. Benefits of proper electroplating include making a base material more resistant to corrosion, protecting the underlying surface, and adding a new functional or decorative value to the material.

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